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We Need a New Fairness Doctrine

Ralph welcomes back MIT professor, Nicholas Ashford, who to stem the tide of lies and misinformation amplified by broadcast media, pitches a new Fairness Doctrine for the 21st Century. And we are also joined by Professor Lonnie T. Brown and documentary filmmaker, Joseph Stillman, who pay tribute to the memory of the late Ramsey Clark.

Nicholas Ashford is Professor of Technology & Policy, and the Director of the Technology & Law Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has published numerous books, several hundred articles in peer-reviewed journals and law reviews, and an op-ed in the New York Times entitled Not on Facebook? You’re Still Likely Being Fed Misinformation.

“Just giving unequally meritorious arguments equal space is not really keeping in the spirit of the Fairness Doctrine. You have to not only present meritorious arguments, but you have to offer criticism. Not just simply display opposing views.”

Nicholas Ashford, author of Not on Facebook? You’re Still Likely Being Fed Misinformation.

“[Most media networks] don’t embarrass somebody who has a point of view. You have to go as far as embarrassing somebody who tells exaggerations, omissions of fact, omissions of view. People would be afraid to be on your interview schedule if you really took people to task. But that’s what we have to change.”

Nicholas Ashford, author of Not on Facebook? You’re Still Likely Being Fed Misinformation.

I remember very clearly…being at the FCC the day the FCC announced the revocation of the Fairness Doctrine. And we didn’t really fully realize the damage. It was clearly the ‘get out of self-restraint card’ for all the right-wing media.”

Ralph Nader

Lonnie T. Brown Jr. is the Chair of Legal Ethics and Professionalism at the University of Georgia School of Law. He teaches courses in civil procedure, the law and ethics of lawyering, ethics in litigation, and he is the author of Defending the Public’s Enemy: The Life and Legacy of Ramsey Clark.

“In dealing with people like J Edgar Hoover in particular, [Ramsey Clark] became very skeptical of the way the government handled things. And he saw that things that were being portrayed to the public weren’t necessarily true. And I think that informed a lot of his representations, a lot of his humanitarian efforts, his visits to Vietnam and to other countries that were viewed as enemies of the United States.”

Lonnie T. Brown, author of Defending the Public’s Enemy: The Life and Legacy of Ramsey Clark

Joseph C. Stillman is an Emmy winning, Academy Award nominated filmmaker, and the director of the documentary Citizen Clark… A Life of Principle.

“I think if there’s a word to describe [Ramsey Clark], he was a fearless individual who did not care what people said; was compelled to tell the truth at any cost; and certainly put himself in numerous situations that were dangerous to his life, in order to bring those facts forward. To tell those truths.”

Joseph C. Stillman, director of Citizen Clark

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 373 Transcript (Right click to download)


  1. Don Harris says:

    Your guest asked the right question- who owns the media?

    Government can’t provide an alternative or oversight because the politicians are owned by the same “people” that own the media.

    Just 10% of the 150 million 2020 voters investing 100 dollars in a shares of a non-profit organization would total 1.5 billion dollars that could be used to buy up and/or start TV, radio, newspapers. on line media to form a media conglomerate owned and controlled by ordinary citizens overseen by a board of people like Ralph Nader.

    The shares could only be owned by American citizens and no citizen could own more than ten shares. The shares could only be sold for 100 dollars as the purpose of owning the shares is to own and control the media and not make money off the price of the shares.

    The same process could be used to create an alternative to Facebook, Google, etc.

    In listener questions you said we have the tools to influence our democracy, we just haven’t been using them properly. And in a recent article you asked when citizens would move on Congress and their big boy paymasters.

    Your guest mentioned omission of views.

    Citizens will move on Congress and their paymasters when you provide them with the information on how they can use the tools provided to demand small donor candidates (no more than 200 dollars from any one donor per election-200 primary, 200 general) and enforce that demand with their votes. (hint- the votes are the tool.)

    For over five years you have omitted providing this information with the exception of here in the comments.

    When are you , Ralph, going to move on this idea and discuss it on the Radio Hour as you said you would on Washington Journal (10-24-2018)?

    A reasonable person would not expect that Ralph Nader would need some sort of fairness doctrine to force him to provide citizens with information on this alternative approach to achieving a common goal of getting the big money out of politics.

    And just 10% of the 150 million 2020 voters investing 100 dollars in contributions to small donor candidates in 2022 would total 1.5 billion dollars.

    So there you have it, Ralph.

    10% of the 150 million 2020 voters investing 300 dollars total (100 dollars each) in these three actions could give us better media, better tech services and better politicians and by extension better government.

    That is an achievable goal for Ralph Nader or at least topics worthy of discussion and consideration.

    At the very least you should defend your five year position of omission.

  2. vince says:

    Oh my god, Nader’s cohost (who shall remain unnamed) calls for government-run stations AND newspapers. That’s communism. It was tried, and it failed. The fact is obvious: liberals/socialists/communists/whatever the flavor of the day can’t compete in the marketplace of ideas WITHOUT government help.

    • Bruce K. says:

      That is not communism.
      And, no, communism has not been tried.
      Even socialism as it was originally defined has not been tried.
      All countries and economies are capitalist, the whole socialism.communism bickerage is nonsense.
      Like the physics experiment “Lord Kelvin’s Thundershower” that whips up a huge arbitrary electric charge “inequality” out of nothing, capitalism does the same thing with the politics of the country it is in. A brilliant science experiment that reveals a lot about how the universe is – even in other realms but physics.

      That is why in the more equal and fair countries, like pretty much the whole of the developed world, they have capitalist economies, and DEMOCRACY.
      The people have a say about if and when things get too unfair and about their quality of life, education, social and infrastructure investment. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Britain, etc, all have capitalist economies. The difference is that they also have thriving democracies too where the US government is now dysfunctional.

      We have had unregulated capitalism since Reagan and it has destroyed the country while making a small vicious corrupt cabal of virtual fascists the owners and rulers of the entire system – a stopping point, a dead point, like the end of a game of monopoly. I sure hope we have the sense to not let this happen …

      But, the point as Nancy McLean wrote about in her book “Democracy In Chains” is those backroom money dealers are using the Republicans to bring about a covert veto-proof super-majority, operating without majority support, and lock it in putting themselves in the position of a permanent royal class, an aristocracy. They want to take the democracy our of what little democracy we have left in our government.

      Vince you’re understanding is a merely a hollow shell of slogans.

      • Vince says:

        “And, no, communism has not been tried”…. the standard response to the millions of deaths accrued to…. communism/socialism. Read “Red Famine” by Anne Applebaum and learn about papa Stalin’s war on Ukraine and resulting STARVATION to death by MILLIONS of PEASANTS. There’s your communism. And don’t get me started on Mao Tse Tung.

        • Bruce K. says:

          I think you have genocide and mass murder confused with communism. I don’t really know what communism is, but I know genocide and mass murder is something distinctly different – and not specific to any one nationality, economic system, or group … except maybe the rich and powerful. And, by the way, do you then associate genocide of Native Americans and the slavery of Africans to capitalism in the same way as you do to communism?

          I’m not going to read your book, and I bet you won’t read my recommendation either, End Of The Megamachine by Fabian Scheidler, but I bet mine is more based on facts and a lot more logical.

    • Afdal Shahanshah says:

      Imagine being so utterly helpless in the Internet Age that you can’t spend ten minutes out of your busy day to do a web search on what communism actually entails.

      • Vince says:

        It entails gulags, torture, a prohibition on unions, environmental catastrophes, famine by the millions…. shall I go on?

  3. I have been a Ralph Nader fan for many years and had the honor of meeting you thanks to fellow Onondaga County Green, Howie Hawkins. But I have to be honest, I had to turn off this podcast as soon as you started in on “conspiracy theories” that question the corportist “facts” about COVID. I loved your prior podcast and the premise that your belief that the best way to combat fake news is more news; let the people use their brains to analyze the facts behind what is being reported. I was shocked when you seemed to do a complete 360 reversal regarding to COVID. There is legitimate science out there that contradicts the corporate line about COVID and particularly about the mRNA shots, which are not vaccines. I have been reading Dr. Joseph Mercola my entire life, and any Fairness Doctrine that does not give him as much air time as Dr. Fauci is not a fairness doctrine. In case you are wondering how Dr. Mercola is being treated, check this out:

    • Bruce K. says:

      Where does this massive army of internet commenters making up stories about Covid-19 and the vaccine coming from? They are all over and travel in packs for the most part, all saying the same thing, all supporting each other, and all attacking violently ( as you can over the internet ) anyone who has disagrees with them.

      We definitely need a fairness doctrine, and maybe some way to analyze comments to verify if they are from real people or sock-puppets or troll-bots. This is ridiculous.

    • Ed Heroux says:

      If you haven’t heard the name Murky Mercola, you seriously need to look it up.

  4. Bruce K. says:

    On YouTube I used to watch imported tapings of the British BBC public & panel discussion program called “Question Time”. It was actually illegal or banned for “Question Time” programs to be viewable from America, but some Brits would download it through their VPN to Britain and then pirate post it to American YouTube.

    “Question Time” had weekly discussions in different British cities with a full auditorium full of regular people who could ask questions and interact with the guests throughout the show.

    The show consisted of 5 or government officials from various levels and departments of government, a moderator, and often a celebrity, such as Russell Brand was one I remember, and at the time when I watched it was the great David Dimbleby who hosted the show for 25 years.

    This show was pure absolute genius. I wonder if Nicholas Ashford has ever seen or heard of the BBC’s “Question Time”. The potential of that show to make news in America if ever we would have the guts to do something like that would go a long, long way towards a Fairness Doctrine type of discussion.

    For the sake of example, here is a YouTube video of a full “Question Time” program:
    BBC Question Time 11/12/2014 Russell Brand Nigel Farage

    Take a look at this example and ask yourself if this is not just what America needs to inject a bit of truth and reality in our public debate. Of course in America they might need to search people for firearms or run background checks on the audience – but this also show the difference in quality between the British public and the American public. I feel ashamed for my country when I viewed these shows.

    I don’t think most people have any idea how close we are in America to a complete 1984-style totalitarian tyranny of the plutocratic Libertarian elites, nor as Nicholas Ashford seems to understand and express well what would be necessary at this point to stop or reverse it. I don’t have a lot of optimism about it.

    Ralph’s obsession with people who post opinions identifying themselves is a terrible, terrible idea. For just talking about Question Time under some or another interpretation of the law I could get identified and possibly prosecuted or have verifiably true comments stricken down, or at the least have my name put on a corporate electronic list that could be searchable by our main corporations who could refuse to hire me or do business with me or corporate connected universities finding reasons not to accept people it does not think would be good corporation citizens. I just do not think Ralph’s imagination stretched enough to envision what is happening in the country, and the amazing “evil genius” creativity in play as to how to screw Americans over technologically.

  5. Don Klepack says:

    The FCC abandon the Fairness Doctrine under the Reagan administration in 1987. What it needs to do today is reinstate it and have it apply to cable news, Facebook, Twitter and Google. #FreeSpeech

  6. Tara Carreon says:

    Are you actually going to keep David Feldman on this show, after what he did to your guest last week? I don’t want to hear his voice. Especially in that he argued for bad actors to be fired, here he also has proven himself to be a bad actor who deserves to be fired. Why not give him what he demands for others? His aggressive interruptions last week and abuse of Mr. John MacArthur are intolerable. If I was invited as a guest on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, I would say, “Not if David Feldman is going to attack me like a rabid dog!” It was inexcusable that Ralph let the abuse go on like he did. I’m not going to listen to this show anymore until you fire David!

    • Afdal Shahanshah says:

      I don’t think anyone deserves to be fired for having the wrong opinions. What is an interview if you refuse to challenge the interviewee with tough questions? Two wrongs don’t make a right, they just feed further into the acceptability of “cancel culture”. David has the right to be wrong.

    • vince says:

      Maybe if Feldman were canceled, he would start believing in cancel culture! He’s a prime example of what’s wrong with wokeness.

  7. Michele Maserjian says:

    I am an avid C-Span listener, while I do enjoy the entertainment of watching and listening to most Congressional Hearings, I agree it would be nice to have access to paper transcript and the supporting documentation the witnesses submitted (if and when they do). I also agree that the 5 minute comment period is short but I notice there are a few Congress persons who actually ask questions. I would love to hear more banter. Mostly the Congress person spends time with thanks you’s, and pontificating on their point of view. But on the plus side, 5 minutes is plenty of time for Ted Cruz and Jim Jordon. LOL Thanks for all your work.